Kickoff week is upon us. We're beyond the roster spot debates and turning our focus to what the Ravens will look like Week 1.
Here are my thoughts, all in 50 words or less:
1. The Ravens defense is strong up the middle. The defensive line is stout. The Roquan Smith-Patrick Queen inside linebacker tandem is elite. Same with the Marcus Williams-Kyle Hamilton safety duo. Baltimore's edges are the question. Will the strengths outweigh the weaknesses? My prediction is yes.
2. Being without Marlon Humphrey for any stretch of the regular season would stink. No way around it. However, let's look at the final three games of last season when Marcus Peters was sidelined by injury. Granted, Peters isn't Humphrey, but Mike Macdonald and Baltimore's secondary were able to mask the loss.
3. With Brandon Stephens starting opposite Humphrey, the Ravens held rookies Desmond Ridder and Kenny Pickett to 218 and 168 yards passing, respectively. With Daryl Worley starting in Week 18, Baltimore surrendered 215 yards to Joe Burrow. In the first three weeks this season, it's (again) two rookie quarterbacks and Burrow.
4. Whether the Ravens can handle Humphrey's absence this time, particularly in Cincinnati, will partly hinge on the safeties playing really good ball. As chief communicator, Williams will have to make sure the corners, who have missed a lot of practice or started late (Ronald Darby), are on the same page.
5. One of the most important parts of training camp and the preseason? The Ravens didn't suffer any major injuries to critical players. Outside of Pepe Williams' ankle surgery, Baltimore didn't have any player go down with an injury that will sideline for a while. The cautious approach paid off.
6. I would've loved to see David Ojabo tear up the preseason. That didn't happen, but I'm not sounding the alarm off 19 preseason pass rush snaps. He's only played in 16 college and pro games. Maybe our high midsummer expectations should be tempered, but he'll still make a sizeable impact.
7. The most difficult preseason Ravens prediction to make? Who will lead in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Mark Andrews was a gimme the past couple years. Now, you could make a case for four guys taking any one of those categories. FWIW, Marlon Humphrey called OBJ the Ravens' WR1.
8. I'm on record saying this is the most talented Ravens roster in quite some time, even better than the 2019 unit. In addition to a "revolutionary" offensive scheme that took opponents by storm, the Ravens also had amazing team chemistry that 14-2 year. I sense the same building this season.
9. Who is the Ravens' No. 2 quarterback behind Lamar Jackson? I'm not sure that the fact that Tyler Huntley made the original 53-man roster and Josh Johnson didn't is a clear indication. Both are now on the 53-man roster, and once both are totally healthy, we'll see.
10. Macdonald's Ravens blitzed at the second-highest rate this preseason, only behind Wink Martindale and the Giants (of course). It's partly due to the wave of pressures at the end of the Commanders game, but also could be an indication that Macdonald will turn up the heat more this season.
11. Speaking of scheme, the Ravens' use of 11 personnel (three WRs) has exploded. Per Sharp Football Analytics, Baltimore used that grouping 9.8% of the time on early downs in the first half, the lowest in a decade. It was up to 64% in those scenarios this preseason under Todd Monken.